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Android Explainer Series: Apps for driving, Google TV and extending battery life

by Ian Black

Raise your hand if you love your Android phone or tablet. OK, good.

There is no question Android is a top-tier mobile device platform – rivaling anything produced by Apple, RIM, and other manufacturers. With an open ecosystem that appeals to casual users and super-nerds alike, Android empowers developers to produce amazingly creative apps and services by the ton.

With so many apps and features available, it’s sometimes hard to make sense of it all. How do you get the most from your smartphone or tablet? With so many customization features, you can truly personalize your Android phone, tablet or whatever for every walk of life.

Read on for tips to maximize your mobile experience with an Android device. Also, make sure to download the Appolicious Android App for recommendations based on the apps you already own. Check back each week at Androidapps.com for a new article in this Android Explainer Series.

Related: Android Explainer Series: Android 101 for beginners

Own Your Car

Your Android is way smarter than your car’s dashboard. Not only that, it’s also more capable than any dedicated navigation device like a Garmin or TomTom. Augment your car’s reality by taking advantage of the car-friendly features and apps in the Android Market.

Google offers an app called Car Home that puts your phone into ‘car mode.’ The main menu buttons become huge for easy interaction and the options on the home screen get reduced to those that help when behind the wheel – like navigation, voice dialing, voice searching, and music playback. Make sure to pick up a dashboard or windshield mount for your phone to use with this app. They cost as little as $4.

Need more? Use Torque to learn the secrets your car only tells your mechanic. It displays data from your car’s computer on your Android’s screen, including the mechanical fault codes and their meanings, clock timings for quarter mile and 0-60 mph sprints, alarms for engine issues like high coolant temperature, and much more. This app requires a separate Bluetooth OBD2 Adapter to connect your car to your phone wirelessly. They range from $20 to $150.

Act Like a King in Your Castle

Google released Google TV last year. It’s technology you can buy in a separate set-top box for your TV, or it comes integrated into some newer models as well. If you’re lucky enough to have it, you shouldn’t hesitate to download Google TV Remote. It will turn your Android phone or tablet into the most powerful TV remote control you’ve ever seen. Your finger movement on your phone becomes the mouse cursor on your television. The app lets you search for shows by typing or talking into your phone. You can even “fling” photos and video from your phone right onto your TV as if you just stepped onto the set of Minority Report.

Also, if you have a Wi-Fi hotspot in your home, get busy connecting your Android to it using Settings > Wi-Fi  Settings  > Add Wi-Fi Network from the home screen. Once associated, your phone or tablet will connect to your home network whenever it detects it. This will likely speed up your web browsing while on the couch and you won’t be burning any download MBs from your data plan by using connected apps or syncing email.

Get Automatic

Remember, your Android is really a full-strength mobile computer. As such, it can be programmed to take action on its own when specific events occur. One app that makes this programming easy is called AutomateIt. Pick a “trigger” – like moving into a specific location, receiving a text from a particular sender, connecting your Android to a PC, and many others – and then choose an “action” to take when the trigger fires, like go into silent mode, send a text, enable Wi-Fi, and so on. Many hardcore enthusiasts say this app works well and rescues people from performing the same task over and over on their phone or tablet. Let your Android do the work for you.

Battery life remains an important aspect of mobile devices that we can’t ignore. And, as computing power and hardware add-ons (like bigger screens) increase, your Android’s battery will suffer even more under the load. Get smart about your Android’s battery by employing a battery optimizer like JuiceDefender. With this app, you can set schedules for when power-sucking features like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned on and off, fine tune screen brightness and timeouts, and create an “extreme” profile to use when your battery is low but you need to keep going.

All and all, to get the most from your Android, keep exploring. Read the news and reviews on AndroidApps.com to keep up on current happenings with the platform, apps in the Android Market, and ways to get the biggest bang for your buck while you’re mobile with your phone or tablet.

Also see: Android Explainer Series: Android 101 for beginners

Also see: Android Explainer Series: Android expert tips for rooting, speed and gaming

Also see: Android Explainer Series: Best Android smartphones and devices from AT&T